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Leaving Islam in the age of Islamism

A growing generation of skeptics and atheists is increasingly coming to the fore

Mohamed Abdelfattah
Mohamed Abdelfattah

By Mohamed Abdelfattah

What would prompt a former youth member of the Muslim Brotherhood to declare that he is putting his belief in Islam “on hold”? What would convert young people to become not only non-religious but extremely anti-theist following long periods of activism with Egypt’s ultra-conservative Wahhabi club, the Salafis?

What I said may be surprising for many, but not for others. The past several years have witnessed every single young man or woman with a shred of critical thinking to leave the Islamist movement. Starting with the Egyptian revolution and the Islamists’ shameful position against it, young middle class educated members have ever since continued to trickle out.

But this mere organisational friction is not the subject of this article. What I intend to expound on is more far-reaching. It’s about those often-silent people who decided to abandon faith completely as a result of their faithful experiences.

“I’ve decided to put Islam on hold as a religion,” wrote former Muslim Brotherhood activist Osama Dorra in his blog post. “For the conflict I’ve found between some of its details and what I think is sanity, justice, and logic has reached an inconceivable limit.”

The young Islamist dropout was courageous enough to come out with these views publicly on his blog. For days comments and shares continued to fuel the discussion. Islamists and their acolytes, who may have one day been shoulder to shoulder with Dorra, were unable to discredit his opinion as simply a fake conspiracy against Islam. Hence, I guess, they were more than cautious not to take him to court.

In any case, Dorra’s “Flying high above religion” blog post was later followed by other articles that suggested more revisionist takes on his initial position.

On the other hand, Islamists themselves have been paying the price of coming out publicly with their archaic and medieval views. For decades, these views were only voiced in underground audio cassettes and cheap booklets when they were long repressed. But as they came to power, they have now realised there is a price tag on every statement.

You could now find uncompromising Salafi TV preachers legitimising profanity and insults. Or the more bizarre Yasser Borhamy of the Salafi movement rejecting a clear ban on slavery in the constitution because he thinks slavery is not necessarily un-Islamic. Or take his other comment that Muslims should hate Christians from a Godly point of view. The list can go on and on to illustrate why a youth born into the 21st century may feel alienated by the whole religious establishment.

“Although the Islamist movement managed to reach power, it has been unprecedentedly dethroned from the hearts of many Egyptians,” so lamented Nageh Ibrahim the founder of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya in a recent article in Al-Masry Al-Youm. Several other preachers have said multiple times recently on TV that Al-Da’wa, or proselytising for Islam, has been losing a lot of credibility as a result of politics.

The issue of rising religious skepticism has been noticed by many. It has taken space in much of the local press and several opinion pieces. But it’s been petty stuff. Instead of defending someone’s right to disbelieve, it’s being treated as a problem that needs confrontation. Instead of presenting a seething critique of the most backward and reactionary ideologies, a self-styled intelligentsia is acquiescing to the Islamist framework in its weakest of times.

A growing generation of skeptics and atheists is increasingly coming to the fore. They are regarding religion, in practice, as at worst harmful and at best unnecessary.

Osama Dorra might be one example of a man who came out with his views. But the numerous others that we know very closely in our social circles prefer not to take the heat at the moment.

Islamists rising to power has not yielded their much-awaited fantasised moment of everything-turning-Islamic. Instead, it’s contributing to an unprecedented wave of skepticism, social secularisation and atheism. Young people feeling alienated by every Friday sermon that lacks substance or labels all non-Islamists as heretics and un-Egyptian are moving away from religion and “flying high above.”

“The Arab Spring has shaken our confidence in everything that preceded the revolution. And it has become clear that all the fundamental assumptions our life was based on were not completely sound,” wrote Dorra.

Mohamed Abdelfattah is a journalist and multimedia producer based in Cairo, Egypt. His main news beats are politics, human rights, and criminal justice. In 2011, he won an International Press Freedom Award for his work on police brutality. 

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  • Reda Sobky

    Of course religious rule and pretense hurts religion. Everybody thinks separation between church and state is to protect the state, it is not as much for that as it is to protect spiritual and religious practice from being misused by politicians who then steal and kill and then when they fall the splatter from their toxicity attaches to religion especially among those of other faiths. Now militant fighters and angry clerics are becoming the face of religion everywhere and as they are discredited it attaches to the religion and gives it a stain. People who really care about their spiritual tradition need to diligently separate it from the extremes of behavior of people who claim the mantle and then act badly wether it is thievery , violence, mistreatment or plastic surgery.

  • hanya salem


  • mirza ahmed

    This is a very sloppy reasoning and article. It would put any philosopher to shame in reading this article.
    Also its very historically inaccurate. Many Azhar scholars took part, and put their lives in supporting the Egyptian revolution. Don’t forget those scholars killed by the regime for supporting the revolution (google it).
    The question for any anti-theist is this. How can you explain the MANY instances of this?

    • Nicke Falcone

      One should just believe in God and believe in doing good. Fuck religions. They are all man made.

  • mirza ahmed

    Imagine if you were 1500 years ago, in desert, with very little technology and science. Would you then be able to describe planes with much detail? Would you even be able to make predictions that humans would make flying machines? You would probably would say “no”, since there was no automotive technology or engines, or any transport like it. People for 1 million years were using horses, boats and other animals to travel. Then how is it possible that an unlettered man (couldn’t read or write) was able to stand in a desert and describe future technology in great detail. For 1 million years, the form of transportation was limited to horses, other animals and boats. Through divine inspirations the Prophet SAW was able to describe planes in detail (and its not like the stuff you’d think when seeing a bird by saying “oh my flying machine would have feathered wings, and a birdy nose, for air resistance).

    Hadiths (sayings) of the Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) were very accurate in predicting many things in the future, including planes (Sheikh Hamza Yusuf mentioned that one hadith spoke about the Dajjal riding a “donkey made of iron”. This though iron wasn’t used for vehicles at the time).

    The Prophet said:

    “The Dajjāl uses a special kind of donkey possessing two enormous ears, each of which is at least 30 arms-lengths, moving in the skies, with the clouds so near he can reach them with his hand and it travels faster than the sun going to its sunset.” (Mentioned in Kanz ul-`Ummal and `Uqd ad-Durrar, Imam al-Maqdisi.)

    The Prophet also said:

    “He eats rocks and a mountain of smoke precedes him and people ride inside him, and not on his back.” (1)

    Another hadith mentioned that the Dajjāl’s donkey eats fire within its body and it has an opening from which fire and smoke emerge. It moves with a very high speed over land, oceans and skies. Its color is very white like the moon. Between one step and another is like the walking of a day and a night. On earth its length is ~180 ft.

    These are clear descriptions of an airplane where the ears are the wings and the color described, aqmar, means pearly like the moon – the color of many aircraft today.

    The part about eating rocks, maybe a reference to modern day exploration & extraction of oil (oil can come from rocks too http://www.fossil.energy.gov/education/energylessons/oil/oil2.html) and other energy resources. The part about fire emerging, can refer to jet planes, especially fighter jets that emit fire (jet engines burn fuel) and smoke from the opening at the back (see below).

    Allah swt knows what size the planes in the future will be. Perhaps with the running out of oil, they may even use other “rocks” as fuel, maybe uranium. Technology changes over time

    So these are all, some of the proofs of the truth of Islam, all praise be to Allah swt!

    1) source is Hakim,

    (article taken from http://muslim-lion.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/prophet-on-planes-hadith.html)

    • Amr

      Stop with the preaching already, will you? To answer your question — can anyone imagine people will one day fly planes, absolutely. Nature is all-inspiring, what we call genuine inventions are merely the works of pattern recognition and extrapolation that is done in our brain.

      Please stop repeating desert-age nonsense and silly arguments that have been refuted for centuries. Educate yourself in science instead, that’s if you care more about the *truth* than your delusional faith.

      • Dudley Durite

        right on Amr!

    • Nicke Falcone

      Some of those verses are exaggerated and taken out of context to fit in the idea of scientific miracles. If you analyze them further they are vague and open to any intrepretation. Other holy books also have verses that supposodily fit a scientific context but no one actually believes they come from god either. Hindu Gita says everything began with the sound ‘om’. Modern day Quantum physcists can easily point this out and say this means string theory and hindus knew about it 7000 years before we did. Its all taking things out of context and using it to feed the illusion that your religion is the best.

    • Dudley Durite

      “Imagine if you were 1500 years ago, in desert, with very little
      technology and science. Would you then be able to describe planes with
      much detail?”

      you can also find that in the Bible lol..much of which Mohamed borrowed from!

      man has dreamt of flying since the dawn of mankind…nothing new here! haha

  • Mohammad Rocka

    this is somewhat of a logical conclusion to the extremists and puritanical elements attacking and sometimes destroying the traditional moderate spiritually center majority schools of thought that used to be predominate and were well known in the Muslim world. When the Salafis, Wahabis or followers of Muhammad Abdu, Sayid Qutb or Maududi or their ilk reject traditional Islamic scholarship and instead proclaim that their own ignorant and narrow minded puritanical views are the only true Islam, then this will in the long run have a negative affect on those who have a heart or think things through from amongst the Muslims.

    • Nicke Falcone

      Islam was bullshit to begin with. Mohammed spread Islam with the sword assasinating his critiques in Medina and conquering against unbelievers and taking captives then raping them in front of their husbands and marrying 9 year old brides. Obviously this was all normal at the time which just goes to show Mohammed was a normal man with political aspiriations who deluded himself to think he was divinely inspired. He had no miracles and only thing Muslims have on him is the Quran which claim is a miracle beacuse it sounds too beautiful in Arabaic. Shakespheare sounds beautiful too but we never attribute him to be a prophet.

      • Dudley Durite

        need i remind you that Mohamed got his inspiration from Christians & Jews & that you can find the same things you abhor about Islam in the Bible or the vile things done in the name of Christendom?

  • Mohamed Aly

    It’s trial time. be or not to be.
    Shocking but not surprising, for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) himself has long foreseen and foretold both facts:
    – The scholars would become the worst of all beings on earth.
    – The believer wakes up an infidel and an infidel wakes up a believer.
    Hence there is an ever increasing number of Muslims leaving Islam whilst an overwhelming score of westerns are converting to Islam every single day.

    This fact dawned on me some 10 years ago when I moved to Egypt to live there and study religion and I was mixing with those “underground” folks of Salais and also some MB members. I always opposed the idea of “Rebranding” Islam! eventually I decided that I can best practice Islam away from any Muslims, and so I moved back to my home country Britain.

    Personally I don’t see the west as the enemies to Islam. on contrary, I think that one day the west will realise that the real Islam is in the heart of their human nature and most cherished values. They will adopt the religion and re-spread its true message of peace to the world – after the Arabs are done killing each other!

    This is called the “Replacement Process” which God has described in the Quran. For someone who knows Islam well and can read the events properly, there’s every reason to assert one’s faith and confidence.

  • Marwan

    There are legitimate arguments both in favour and against the Muslim Brotherhood, but this is just stupid.

  • Ahmed

    all I can say that I know former muslims and copts who turn to be agnostic or atheist after the Arab Spring

  • I almost never comment, however i did some searching
    and wound up here Leaving Islam in the age of Islamism – Daily News Egypt.
    And I do have a few questions for you if it’s allright. Could it be only me or does it appear like a few of the responses come across like written by brain dead folks? 😛 And, if you are writing on other places, I would like to keep up with anything new you have to post. Could you list of every one of your public sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

  • All books are written by humans,God doesn’t write books,the bible and koran are creations from the minds of humans.. A good book to read is 23yrs by Ali Dashti which takes a pragmatic look at islam.. We are all part of a brotherhood,the brotherhood of humanity,the sooner the better that we can put all religion away … It achieves nothing only to divide people ..

  • Jan Adam

    is essentially an obstructive, intolerant system… It has sanctified repression;
    it has consecrated polygamy; it has sanctified slavery. It has declared war
    against every other creed; it has claimed to be at least dominant in every
    land… When it ceases to have an enemy to contend against, it sinks into
    sluggish stupidity and into a barbarism far viler… It must have an enemy; if cut
    off…from conflict with the infidel, it finds its substitute in sectarian hatred
    of brother Moslems…” – Edward Augustus Freeman

    • Dudley Durite

      its not only Islam my friend…that passage can apply to other religions as well!

  • Dudley Durite

    I can relate to Osama Dorra very well and i admire his philosophical courage…i was raised in the Christian faith and i believed in it deeply until i learned to seperate superstition from reality and hyprocrisy…like Islam, many Christians believe that those of the Islamic faith are infidels and many Jews feel the same way about both and visa versa with regards to Islam & Christians…i have become agnostic because i saw the dirty little secrets of these religions…”Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit attrocities.” ~ Voltaire…i simply don’t know if there is a god and i have become comfortable with that and i no longer look at people of other faiths with a judgemental attitude (other than the absudity that my god is better than yours)…whether one becomes agnostic or athiest does not mean that you no longer believe that its bad to lie, steal, cheat kill, etc…you still maintain morals that are inate to human nature regardless of religion and the sooner you learn that there is no HELL, the sooner you can free yourself from that which causes so many in the name of religion to be so cruel to his fellow human beings!

    “All the meanness, all the revenge, all the selfishness, all the cruelty, all the hatred, all the infamy of which the heart of man is capable, grew blossomed, and bore fruit in this one word–Hell.” ~ Robert Ingersoll

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